Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Scenes From A Nursing School

Ahh, the never-ending semester-of-cruel-and-unusual-torture has finally wound down to the last two weeks. As it winds down, we all wind up to finish all those last minute projects, papers and of course, exams. Before I resort to throwing myself into traffic from a certain a pathophysiological conditions class that eternally makes no sense and will no doubt get someone killed in the near future from the sheer amount of bad information being propagated (but I digress), I thought I might take a moment to reflect on some of the finer aspects of the post-Thanksgiving semester-end weeks.

Gang members. Apparently they work in a stressful enviornment. Just like nurses. And firemen. We must have missed the gang member contribution to distasters like 9-11 or Katrina. We, as a society, have been terribly remiss in our understanding, NAY, our appreciation of the stressful work enviornments of gang members. I picture a resume much like this:

Work Experience:
* Crips, gang member 1998-present
*Skills: Capping over 10 homies per minute, fluent in street lingo and yo mama.

But I bet you even money they don't even get employer-matched 401K benefits or paid holidays. Frankly, it wasn't the choice I would have thought to round out the whole list there.

In any case, I was a little peeved that today I was using my first degree to supplement the lack of use of my currently sought-after degree on the unit. Art is great and all, but I don't think I got that degree to peel the back off of sticky foam holiday cut-outs. Maybe I did. Maybe I did and that's why I'm back in school a second time around? Good point. Nevermind.

In an effort to bolster my mood and shake the generally sour expression I'm sure I was wearing, I decided to make-like-a-psych-patient and sing all the Christmas carols that were coming on the radio (regardless, in some cases, of my ability to correctly remember the words). The patients LOVED it. The other nursing students HATED it. More importantly, my professor thought I was being particuarly therapeutic and encouraged me to continue. I aim to please.

And it's selfish. For as good as he felt holding my hand, I think I felt 10 times better inside watching the change in him.

Maybe he held hands with me, not knowing any better, because he wasn't in the arts and crafts session that morning listening to me make a holiday-tabulous fool of myself. He may have not wanted to be associated with seemingly the craziest person on the unit today.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Here comes the bride(smaid)

Well, it's official. I'm getting married.

Let's be honest. It was official when he proposed, when I said yes, when I wore and continue to wear the ring, when we moved in together and when we periodically make life-long plans together.

Sure, I've already bought a costly white dress that I will never be able to wear again. And, it's no small matter that I've got my mom all hyped up about planning a wedding (including but not limited to: picking china patterns and flatware, flowers, eliminating any choreographed dances from the reception play-list and a cake tasting or two). You can't just pull a wedding-rug out from a mom!

But now it's really official.

Two things happened this weekend that really sealed the deal.
  1. I ordered our "save-the-date" magnets (I'm a little bit of a magnet fiend, and it was so apro-po. They're adorable. I'm delighted.) that are printed with our names on them. Since I can't imagine what I'd do with them in-bulk should this all fall through, come hell or high water, we're getting married. [Though perhaps a lack of preparation on my part, I only asked the Betrothed the "You're for-sure, for-sure about this, right?" AFTER my credit card had been billed. He said "Yes, goddamnit. I'm watching poker!" Hands off, ladies. This romantic is all mine.]
  2. Other people's cash-monies are involved now. I took my bridesmaids to the shi-shi salon this weekend to order their delightfully not-heinous dresses. {I swear, swear-on-us, they aren't ugly. They are truly "you'll be able to wear them again!"-able. That, or my b-maids are fantastic liars.} Deposits were made, measurements were taken. I couldn't in good conscience back out on these, my maid-sy gal pals.
Incidentally, I came upon another one of those situations where I crack a joke that I think is pretty funny, hell I laugh at it myself, but there is suddenly a deafening chorus of crickets and rampant tumbleweeds in the room. The looks on people's faces indicates that they just sat in something cold and wet or else I'm terribly inept at making a situation humorous.

As one was paying for her dress, the girl behind the counter hands her a "contract". My fairly entertaining bridesmaid says, "What, is this a contract that says I won't get fat before the wedding?" Girl behind the counter, missing the joke (which should have been my clue to zip-it) says, "Uh, no. It's just in case, like, I dunno *nervous glance at me* the wedding is cancelled or something like that -- that you'll still pick up the dress." I chime in: "Cha. Cancelled. I just ordered 200 magnets with my name on them. Nothing's getting canceled unless I find some bodies in his basement."

Cue the crickets.

Thankfully, said bridesmaid gave me an honest guffaw about it so I wasn't drowning in the silent screams of my dying joke. Of course, she and I regularly find opportunites to quote "Silence of the Lambs" to each other and have been since college so she's really no judge of my inappropriate references to serial murderers. And indeed, of the 4 of us standing there -- Bridesmaid, Bride and 2 Counter-Clerks, only two of us really knew it would be more absurd than absurd to ever think the Betrothed would be capable of snuffing a life, let along multiples lives, let along hiding them in my tidier-than-tidy, sully-under-penalty-of-death basement. Tsk-tsk.

I'm not a total loss, though. I successfully showed my face at the same boutique the next day to measure the rest of the girls -- and managed to go the entire time without making people look at me funny.

Baby steps. Baby steps.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Hubbas for your trubbas

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Crazy Talk -- the sequel

Updates from the hospital psych unit:
Ah, only 3 more clinical days of the strangest rotation of my student days. I shan't miss these days.
As I left today, my professor said, "I don't think you like psych nursing all that much, Cathy. And that's ok. What's impressive is that you hide it so damned well."

Monday, November 13, 2006


Look what the cat dragged in...

I'm a little upset.

A while ago I posted a link to a terribly entertaining website wherein cat owners dress up, pile on or find other means of feline humiliation, document it on film and then submit it to the internet for all to giggle. It's awesome. It has not ceased to entertain me in the slightest and I've been going nearly every day for months.

Several weeks ago I, too, decided to get in on the fun and costume-molest my cat. We are a two-fur-baby home here.
This is a tender moment between Squirts and Neeners -- a tender moment that will, at any moment, erupt into a very loud, fur flying fight.Yes, they are that adorable. I can just about hear you all melting with oos and ahhs into your cubicles.

So back to humiliation: I submitted the pictures to the website and was told it might be 2-3 weeks, due to a backlog of cat owners all trying to humilitate their cats at the same time. It's been over 3 weeks now and no dice -- and I honestly cannot fathom that he didn't make some sort of website-cuteness-cut. I blame it on that crazy week my email decided to vacation elsewhere and I wasn't ever really sure that anything was actually coming or going with regards to my inbox. Maybe I should resend. I'd hate to seem desperate to the dressing-up-my-cat-picture-website-guy.

In the meantime, why deny you good people the pictures of my cat's abject humilation?! Sadly, it wasn't nearly as humilitating as it might seem. He was happily purring like mad the entire time.

I give you: Bernini, beloved cat and part-time pirate.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


It's that time of year...

No, it really isn't. Not yet anyway.

I have always been a firm believe and a staunch hold-out that all things Christmas should be kept together and released only after the successful completion of Thanksgiving. Why must we start the Christmas season in October? Before we know it, "Christmas in July" will be more real than we think.

Prior to Thanksgiving, I don't watch Christmas movies. I boycot Christmas music. I roll my eyes at Christmas mall decorations. I turn off Christmas commercials (Aw, who am I kidding? I fast-foward THROUGH Christmas commercials. I heart Tivo the very most.). And it's not because I'm a Scrooge -- I'm a good ol' Jesus-loving Catholic. We LOVE Christmas. Christmas is our thing. We just love it at the appropriate time of year.

However this year I was corporately forced to enjoy the Christmas season a whole two weeks before I believe I should have. I blame Starbucks. I blame their pretty red decorations that sprung up out of nowhere.

But most of all, I blame their grande, half syrup, skim, half whip peppermint mocha. It's like drinking Christmas. It's like peppermint crack. I drank my weight in them last year and once I saw those red decorations up this weekend, I knew it had arrived. I've already had 2 this weekend. And I plan on more. And worst of all, I have no remorse. None whatsoever.

So we'll just keep this between us, right? You won't tell anyone that I've prematurely begun Christmas down my gullet, right? Sweet. You're such a pal.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Make a wish. Scroll down. Send to all your friends. Or else.

I hate forwards. I loathe chain-emails that threaten gloom and doom if I fail to propegate their mysterious messages.

Which is why it is so odd -- and likely the only time I would ever post/email or otherwise transmit such a message as this. My mother sent me this tonight.

I was immeasurably moved by it -- maybe because it includes pictoral evidence of its veracity that I permitted it to tug at my heart strings. My new appreciation of athletic competition, my love of nursing and my deep admiration and constant amazement for the strength of the human heart and soul were all tearing up with this.

Take a quiet moment and see this.

Friday, November 03, 2006


A few comments on comments.

Let me just put it out there that I know so very little about hi-tech hi-jinx. While converting to the beta format of this blog (of which I have not learned the benefits of, just that I was told I would be better off by doing it...) I saw all of the unmoderated comments that you all dear people have been leaving me about my many posts over the last few months. THANK YOU. You all had such kind and very entertaining words. I've posted them all on the appro-po post and believe I have (hopefully successfully) set my blog to now just put all of your whimsical thoughts and comments on a post without my need to approve it.

Sorry that I'm so lame. But, it just proves that I can be taught. There is hope for me yet.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


You may be right. I may be crazy.

I have been reticent in the retelling of my psychiatric clinical rotation and I know that. It is partially because I do not wish to appear callous to those who do suffer from mental illness, and partially because I have found it to be a much more difficult experience than I had previously expected. Though my first few weeks have been peppered, indeed, with entertaining stories of the “crazies”, I am assured that this is not a clinical area for me, career-wise. I believe, in all honesty, I lack the patience needed to treat patients who are rarely rooted in the reality I rely on. There are fellow students around me that are blessed with this virtue and they will change lives and heal minds. I have a place too; a place I’ll change lives and heal minds, but it’s not in psychiatry.

My clinical rotation occurs in two parts – the second part will be spent in an honest-to-God psychiatric hospital-ward. Because of the high census of geriatric dementia clients, the ward is far more “Golden Girls” than “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, which honestly, is to our chagrin. In the mean time, the first part is two weeks spent in a day-care facility of sorts for schizophrenics and other mood and personality disorders. They are mostly self-sufficient – in the most basic sense of the word, live in group homes or with caretakers and come to this place each day to learn simple job-skills or simply to have a place to be for the day. They are, to the “sane” outsider: odd, illogical, pathological, repetitive, shut off, and strangely insightful at times. They act in ways that would make you stare, or at the very least wonder what the hell was wrong with them. But when you enter this day-facility, you, my friend, are the minority. And after a while, you begin to wonder who, really, the crazy one is.

Tuesday was Halloween, as you know. The facility was hosting a small party for all of the clients. (Oh yeah, in today’s very PR world, you’re not a “patient” anymore. You’re a “client”. It still sounds like you’re ill to some extent, but reminds us all that you are the paying customer.) Soon after I arrived I was asked to move all the chairs in the main room into a circle for the morning meeting. I went about my business and continued small conversations with some of my patients from the last week (one of whom had a “bug” implanted in her head over the weekend that enables everyone to hear her thoughts). (And yeah, I still call them patients.) As I moved chairs, the main lady who runs the joint called over one of the more severe schizophrenics and said, “Would you mind helping Cathy make that into a circle?” Woah, woah, woah! I can manage a “circle”. I have a college degree – and distinctly remember passing the first grade, when shapes were first introduced to me.

Sadly, it was only the first 15 minutes of the day, and bound to get worse.

In preparation for the party we had groups of clients coloring Halloween-themed outlines and then hanging them around the facility as decorations. One client, her diagnosis is paranoid-schizophrenia, was intently coloring a pink bat. I chimed in and said, “Oh, what a great pink bat!” Her head jerked up and she stared at me harshly. “Are you being sarcastic?” I immediately assured her that I wasn’t and she continued to color – but it occurred to me that she may have sensed the slightest tinge of sarcasm in my voice. Maybe I was being sarcastic? It was a great check for me to be more aware of myself here. Because though they may be left of center, they know sarcasm and criticism better than any of us ever will – and even more so, they know how to sniff it out of you.

The party was a success, really. We organized a great party game of Halloween-Hangman. I was elected to be “it” at one point and decided on my holiday-themed word. It was “Pirate Costume”. Because they continued to guess the same, wrong letter over and over, I was making the hangman out to be a pirate until they all caught on. One of the clients who volunteered to be “it” chose an odd 11 letter word to play until we all discovered later (after nearly 10 minutes of guessing…) was not a real word. Very real to him, however. He, incidentally, spent a good 35 minutes later that day telling me about his development of the cure for diabetes – which he will deliver to the world’s population via email soon. So be sure to check your spam folders so you don’t miss it, ok? He comes from quite a lineage as well – his mother, who has been president of nearly every country in the world and is also a four star general, has recently accepted the post of president of the United States. And to talk to him about all of this, he’s very serious. Dead serious. So serious your mind almost strains to make it make sense in your own head.

And that’s when you start feeling a little crazy yourself. Crazy because you appear to be the only one in the room that is finding fault with these nutty ideas. The only one in the room that doesn’t believe that Arnold Schwarzenegger is giving live birth every other day. The only one in the room who doesn’t think that bearded men are inherently untrustworthy. Harmless and talkative, every one, but if one says an idea, they all catch on to it faster than you could catch bird flu. It goes from nuts to gospel in less than a minute.

And they all smoke like fiends – and even though they’re smoking outside (sometimes every 10 minutes) the whole insides smells like your favorite college bar on Sunday morning. Interestingly enough, I was told that they were taught to smoke by the staff at their respective state institutions. Not only did it give them something to do and an excuse to be outside, but actual studies show that nicotine quells some of the symptoms of psychosis. So does Vitamin-E, Omega-3 and Omega-6, but, hey, vegetables and fish are more expensive than smokes, eh?

At the same time, however, you can’t help but notice how very sad it all is, really. Grown adults, physically, but very small, helpless children inside. Most of them suffered all manner of abuses, true and real abuses, at the hands of state psychiatric institutions years ago. The stories they told me (the true ones) sent chills down my spine – and I’m afraid the images they gave me might haunt the recesses of my mind forever. Their usual flat or vacant affect turns to paranoia and great fear when they remember those days – and I cannot imagine those horrors myself. To them, this place is heaven. I’m so glad that it is there for them.

I was able to spend time with a woman today – and her love monkeys. If only I was kidding. Since January 21, 1984 (she was so strangely clear on the date), she has been carrying around these two small stuffed monkeys. They don’t eat anything REAL, she told me, they feed on love. And to feed them, you have to rub them all over your face and make squeaky noises. Her monkeys were named “Billy Idol” and “Boy George”. Apparently Billy had a thing for me because she said he was telling her that he wanted me to love him – as she held him towards my face. And with this worn, dirty and misshaped stuffed monkey only a few inches from my face, I declined. Now, if there was a love monkey in her pocket named “George Michael”, I’d be all about it.

There was more to my time here than just extracting the strangest stories of my life. I am first, and foremost, a nursing student here. On the first day there I found myself actually enthusiastically groping my own (clothed) breast at the “Women’s Group” meeting to teach them all how to do self-breast exams. After a few moments I realized they were all staring with a great deal of intensity at my left breast to watch and mimic how I was doing it. Truly, it is just one of those times you couldn’t ever foresee yourself involved in until you’re knee (or breast) deep. Today I gave a presentation on the importance of exercise (seeing as how I’ve come to enjoy the fruits of exercise recently). As I spoke, the whole group of clients sat intently watching my every movement. Except for the lady at the end who was fast asleep and snoring. Occasionally, one or two would get up and walk directly in front of me to go smoke. They would come back a few minutes later (the fastest smokers I ever knew) and sit down again. I asked the group for examples of their favorite forms of exercise – one man raised his hand eagerly. When I called on him, he said with a flurry of fist and arm movements, “Kung-fu.” Yeah. I guess kung-fu is exercise.

My dearest patient was a man in his 60s – who bore a striking resemblance to my own father. He has been diagnosed with severe autism, OCD and schizophrenia, but he is as kind and gentle as a daisy. Jittery and nonsensical, yes, but sweet and talkative. I spent most of my time in this place with him close behind me – eager to help me with whatever task I could assign to him. He was, in fact, the one who started the whole “men with beards can’t be trusted” conversation. Probably because of a strange combination of all of his conditions, we only ever had the same conversation every day that I was there. Everyday I asked him the same questions and he gave me the same answers with the same renewed enthusiasm he had the very first day. I would ask different questions, but he rarely answered them – and then quickly turned back towards his tried and true topics. I was told most of these clients become attached to faces and people there – and so when you leave, especially for good, they ask that you don’t tell them, only because the clients react so strongly. And that was the hardest part about today – leaving him and not telling him I wouldn’t see him again.

Today, shortly before I had to leave, Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right” came on the radio. The other nursing students and I started singing along. And when we sang “but it just may be a luuuuuuuuuuuuunatic you’re looking for….” the whole room laughed as if they were in on the joke. And oddly, it felt as if we were the only ones not in on it.

I feel like I left today with more appreciation of my own sanity – and indeed, the smallest amount of jealousy for their whole lack of it. There’s something very delicious about a world where literally everything is possible, anything can happen and often does.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?

....it's now the MASH!

You know, it's been a few years since I went trick-or-treating. And I didn't think that the whole methodology of trick-or-treating had really changed all that much since the Druids dressed up and went hut to hut with pillowcases asking for fun-size Snickers, what, ten thousand years ago?
Apparently it has.

Because apparently a freaking costume is no longer requisite for the asking-of-candy. ASKING. Ha, more like holding out their shopping bags with a look of entitlement. {Sidebar: My sister has had a similar problem in her posh neighborhood hundreds of miles away. Her soloution? TWO sets of candy. The A candy -- the good shit: Snickers, Skittles, M&Ms, etc... and the B candy -- the cheap shit: those peppermint star hardcandies, tootsie rolls and probably, knowing my sister, pebbles and cat poop. If you didn't bother to wear a costume, be over 10 and say trick-or-treat or generally look like a hooligan, you get a nice warm handfull of crap. She is a genius.} And pillowcases or cute plastic halloween pumpkins? Hardly! I even saw one kid with a white, kitchen force-flex garbage bag. Do I suddenly live in the ghetto and didn't realize it?

Now I got my fill last night of the cutsie little tots who are too scared to say trick-or-treat and probably still seeing bright white flashes when they blink because their parents down the walk won't stop taking pictures. I think I saw all of the major princesses represented, a Nemo and the furry-cover-all-body suit of your favorite mythical creature de jour. The Betrothed and I cooed out the front door at each of them. And I happily poured candy into their little sacks.

I'm also turning into an old woman who is unaware of pop culture, apparently. A young girl came up in a black mini skirt with a blonde wig and one of those head-set microphone (a la Madonna on her Erotica tour). I said, "Ohh, are you American Idol?" {not the American Idol or an American Idol, just "American Idol" -- as if her costume is meant to embody the whole show? I'm going to get tee-peed for sure now.} She throws her head back and says, "Ugh! No! Britney Spears!"

This year, however, we had a bit of a calculation problem. Two years ago {BCC -- before Cathy's Cohabitation}, the Betrothed swears he didn't get any kids to the house. It is a newish 'hood and there weren't many kids in the streets, so it's plausible. I think that's probably more than likely bullshit and he has a poor memory and/or didn't buy candy, etc. Last year we decided to play over/under on the number of kids we'd get. He said 4 or less, I said 6 or more. I won with 8. This year I bought candy last week and pulled out enough for 15 kids into a ziploc and left the rest out to eat myself (naturally.. please don't act like you don't buy your bag, eat your bag then have to go buy another bag.). Yesterday afternoon I thought I might get another bag, just in case.

We ran out in of candy in about 30 minutes. In fact, and the real cruxt of my blog here, when I was giving out one piece each to conserve my fast depleting resources, the Ninja walking down the stoop said to Dracula coming up the stoop, "Man, she's only giving out ONE piece.." and you know what? Dracula turned around and left! Bastards! He's gonna ruin my rep in the neighb, man!

And that's another thing -- examining the loot before you're even to the driveway?! In a panic, we were giving out 100-Calorie pack Cheetos and Doritos. When I was out of those, I started in on my peanut cluster bars and All-Bran breakfast bars (any kid's dream halloween treat!). A pack of 'tweens came up the stoop, one of whom made me wish I had employed my sister's system. A snotty little girl in sweat pants and t-shirt tied into a midriff ball at her side -- I hardly thought she was attempting a tribute to Olivia Newton John's "Physical" video. I dropped a peanut cluster bar into her bag and she trotted off down the porch. Halfway to the driveway, she holds up the peanut cluster bar and yells, "Uh, HI! I'm ALLERGIC! I need something ELSE." She walked back up to the door, pushed Woody the Toy Story cowbody out of the way to hand me my peanut cluster bar and take a 100-Calorie Cheetos.

The Betrothed was sweating bullets about our diminished supply {and he sure as hell wasn't giving away my Orbit gum packs} -- as if we were inches from having to barricade the house and wait it out in the bomb cellar until the apocalypse of trick-or-treaters left. He left the house feverishly to purchase more candy for the unrelenting stream of children. {Incidentally, while he was gone I contemplated the giving out of soup and canned cat food. Which, the BFF points out, would create interesting cafeteria conversation the next day. "Hey, Bobby, did you go to the house with the lady giving out cat food?"}

The Betrothed returned with FIVE bags of candy. A touch of overkill, really. And our doorbell didn't ring again. Naturally. That's how it always goes. Luckilly we got a slew of highschoolers later in the evening -- who had made a theme of their trick-or-treating -- and were getting handfulls of candy for it from me. {and incidentally, our end count was 51. I won again. The Betrothed had 11 and under this year, I had 12 or more}

Next year I'm giving out rocks {a la Charlie Brown} and will risk getting my house egged in the name of preserving Halloween tradition -- primarily being Costumes and Manners.

I think the "trick or treat" choice outta be mine.

And P.S. One of the best features of this Spooky season was my broken radio. I didn't hear "Monster Mash" even once. Ahh, xanadu!

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